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Problem Pairs in English

English has quite a number of close (in sound and/or spelling) word pairs that can cause quite a lot of confusion for both readers and writers.

Here are two common problem pairs:

“The speaker was so nauseous that it made the new student feel nauseated.” As you can see, the word nauseous means to cause illness; on the other hand, the word nauseated refers to the feeling of sickness (oftentimes caused by the nauseous person!).

“If you want to wreck a party, make sure to invite some badly behaved people who are willing to wreak havoc.” Thus, wreck is the result of the wreaking, although the two words do not share the same origins in language.

(May 15, 2011)

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